Racism, Sexism, Power, and Ideology

Racism, Sexism, Power, and Ideology

Racism, Sexism, Power, and Ideology

Racism, Sexism, Power, and Ideology

Synopsis

Racism, Sexism, Power and Ideologyargues that there is nothing "obvious" or "natural" about our ideas of sex and race. The books looks at the evolution of these ideas, with Colette Guillaumin contending that the slow crystallization of ideas on human "races" over the last few centuries can be grasped through the study of signs and their systems. However, she argues that race and sex are in no way purely abstract or symbolic phenomena, but rather the hard facts of society. To be a man or a woman, black or white is a matter of social reality. To be a member of a particular race or sex does not bring with it the same opportunities, the same rights or the same constraints. Colette Guillaumin examines how these constraints operate and shape our life experiences. From a more theoretical standpoint the text tackles the particular links between the daily materiality of social relationships and mental conventions. Relationships of sex and race follow an ancient history of physical rightof the one over the other. The fact that slavery and patriarchy are defined by direct physical rights which is not without its consequences: those who are factually objects in social relationships are so equally in thought and reality.

Excerpt

The reader of this book should know a little of its origin and rationale. It constitutes the first complete publication in English of the most important essays on racism and sexism written by Colette Guillaumin since the late 1960s. Up until now, access to these papers has been restricted to those who read French or to those who found those papers previously translated into English in the restricted circulation of specialist journals.

Yet, for a long time, there has been a vague awareness of Guillaumin’s work in the English-speaking world, partly because of the wide readership of a UNESCO publication which included in English translation the important paper ‘The Idea of Race and its Elevation to Autonomous Scientific and Legal Status’ and partly because of the translation and publication by the US journal Feminist Issues of several of Guillaumin’s key papers on the oppression of women. Indeed, there have also been passing references in the English literature on racism to her major book, L’Idéologie raciste, first published in 1972 and now out of print and still (sadly) untranslated.

The publication of these papers is intended to bring her most important ideas and arguments to the attention of those interested and engaged in those multifaceted debates (in English) about the nature and origin of racism and sexism, and about their articulation. When evaluating Guillaumin’s contribution to these debates, it is essential to recall that most of her important ideas were first published in French before or at the same time as similar or parallel ideas were first articulated and debated by other writers in English. Her previously mentioned book, L’Idéologie raciste, was written during the period 1967-68! It is therefore a product of the period and events that shaped, for example, Carmichael and Hamilton’s Black Power and Rex’s Race Relations in Sociological Theory, to cite two titles which have had considerable impact on the English-language debate about racism.

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